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Improve ROI with Native Advertising: Examples and Strategies

Discover how brands are successfully integrating native ads into editorial content and engaging in a more organic way.

Using paid ads can help you reach a wider audience while increasing brand awareness and conversions. There are several different types of ad options, such as display and native ads.

Both native and display ads can help you achieve similar goals, such as increasing website traffic, conversions, and sales. However, they’re not the same.

The key difference between native and display ads is that one is designed to stand out while the other is meant to blend in. Display ads are obvious. You can see them on almost any digital publication’s web pages, and they tend to stick out to grab your attention.

However, native ads blend in with the medium they appear on. They may look like articles or other graphics designed by the same team responsible for a digital publication. This is intentional to make consumers think that they’re reading an article or looking at a design that’s part of the website they’re visiting.

But what are native ads, and how can you start using them to increase your reach? Keep reading to learn more about native advertising, including strategies and examples.

What is native advertising?

Native advertising is a type of digital advertising strategy that uses digital ads that blend into the medium they appear on. Simply put, native ads look like the website they appear on. If you’re reading an article on your favorite digital news site, you’ve probably come across native ads without even realizing it.

However, there are several types of native advertising. For instance, Facebook and Instagram in-feed ads are native ads designed to look like posts.

Unlike other types of ads like banner ads and other display ads, native advertising is non-disruptive; it doesn’t impact a user’s ability to enjoy or engage with the content on a specific site or app.

On social media, native ads fit into the natural flow of a user’s feed. On websites, it matches the layout and design scheme of the publication. Many marketers prefer native advertising because it’s not disruptive and doesn’t distract users or detract from their experience.

Native advertising is different from traditional marketing tactics used online. Instead of having pop-up ads that can frustrate users, they allow them to continue enjoying an app, publication, or other forms of media without disturbing them.

Native ads work similarly to display ads. When a user clicks your native ad, they’re taken directly to your content. However, unlike display ads, native ad content is a continuation of the content users were just reading.

So, for instance, if a user was reading an article about the best sneakers for running and clicked your native ad about the best sneakers for hiking, they expect a similar experience instead of a blatant advertisement.

If you’re interested in a new type of digital ad that has higher engagement rates than traditional advertising methods, it’s crucial to learn about the different types of native ads.

The term native ad is an umbrella term used to refer to various advertising formats that align with another medium’s style and tone. Your native ad options include:

In-feed ads

In-feed ads are the ads you’ll find on social media that appear in a user’s feed and look like just another post.

With these types of native ads, you don’t have to use the social media platform’s color scheme or branding guidelines; instead, these ads are designed to look like posts in users’ feeds that may come from family or friends.

Search ads

After entering your query in a search engine, you’ll see the search engine results page (SERP), which lists the various pages that relate to your query.

However, many of your queries will come back with ads throughout the page. These ads are designed to look just like any other search result; only they’re identified as ads if you look closely above them.

Currently, Google marks any paid ads as “Sponsored.” That said, they look like nothing more than your average search result to the untrained eye.

In-content ads on websites

In-content ads on websites are ads that appear throughout the content of a page. So, for instance, if you’re reading an article, you might see a native ad under a paragraph that looks like it pertains to the same topic you’re reading about.

Content recommendation blocks

Several websites have content recommendations on pages depending on the topics you seem most interested in. These articles or content recommendations may be from the publication’s team of writers or native ads that take users off the site.

On most websites, the content recommendation advertisements are labeled as sponsored.

Promoted listings

Promoted listings are ads you might see on Amazon or eBay. Advertisers purchase these ad placements that help show their product listings based on various criteria. For example, when searching for just about anything on Amazon, you’ll see promoted listings that are made to look exactly like organic listings.

Native advertising strategies

Native advertising is oftentimes more effective than display advertising because it allows users to continue to enjoy their experience on a specific medium without distractions.

As we’ve mentioned, display ads are considered disruptive, and most consumers simply don’t like them. Both display and native ads serve the same purpose — to increase your brand awareness and attract customers.

With your goals in mind, it’s crucial to understand the various native advertising strategies to help you make your campaigns as effective as possible. Here are a few native ad tips and best practices to help you get started:

Understanding the target audience

Understanding your target audience is crucial when developing an advertising strategy. For native ads, you must determine where your audience spends their time. For instance, if you market primarily to millennials and Gen Zers, you might have better luck creating native Instagram and TikTok ads.

Conducting market research on your target audience can help you learn more about them, including their hobbies and which platforms they use the most.

In addition, market research can tell you which websites and publications they frequently visit so that you can fine-tune your targeting and retargeting ad efforts to reach more potential customers.

Creating effective content

Content is the foundation of every successful native advertising strategy. Ultimately, without content, you can’t create native ads. You can create native ads with articles, videos, infographics, and various other types of content, depending on your ultimate goals and what’s available to you.

Regardless of the type of content you use, it must serve two purposes: being relevant and useful while fitting into the webpage or app your target audience is using without being disruptive.

With native ads, you have to consider the user. They don’t want their experience interrupted by distracting ads; instead, you must design your ads as if they’re an extension of the medium they appear on.

The creatives you use in your native ads shouldn’t be distracting, but they should capture the user’s attention and make them want to click on them. Native ads need clear headlines and visual elements to grab a reader’s attention. However, they should also align with the chosen medium’s user experience.

Choosing the right platform

Native advertising offers flexibility and variety, with several platforms available to choose from. For instance, you can use social media ad platforms directly to create in-feed native ads.

However, if you want to create a wide-scale native ad campaign, you’ll need the help of software designed to help you find publishers to work with. Native ad networks and sponsored content platforms give you access to thousands of publishers and their websites running these campaigns.

Instead of reaching out directly to publishers, these platforms allow you to create and publish your native advertising campaigns from one easy-to-use dashboard. They work similarly to how you might use Google Ads to create search or display ads, connecting you to thousands of publishers based on your unique set of criteria and doing the hard work for you.

You can review specific publishers, target specific niches, or target your ads based on your particular audience. These platforms will also have information about a website, including its demographics, to help you decide where to place your ads.

When looking for a native advertising platform, you should consider the quality and size of its network. To get the largest reach possible, you must determine what kinds of page placements they have available.

Successful native advertising examples

The most successful native advertising examples have one thing in common: you wouldn’t know they’re paid ads without seeing the “Sponsored” or “Paid Post” section calling it out. Instead, they blend seamlessly into a publisher’s content design and provide users with the ultimate experience when using various apps and websites.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most successful native advertising examples to help you choose which format and type is right for your business:

New York Times — Cole Haan

A sponsored post from Cole Haan, a lifestyle brand focused on footwear and accessories, was featured in the New York Times. It looks like any other feature article the publication would cover; only it’s written with a specific purpose in mind: to create content that educates, informs, and sells without being too salesy.

TikTok — Pepsi

TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms worldwide, and many brands are using it to reach younger audiences, build awareness, and increase conversions. For example, Pepsi recently created a native advertising campaign on the platform that appears in users’ feeds like any other post.

Snapchat — Taco Bell

Source: The Business Journals

In 2016, Taco Bell took native advertising to the next level with their Cinco De Mayo Snapchat filter, making it look like you were a talking taco. What makes this a native advertisement? It appeared in any user’s filter options just like any other filter.

Merck — The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel is one of many publishers that welcome native advertisements like this one from Merck.

Can you tell which of the articles under “Recommended” is the native ad? As you can see in the video linked above, this is a prime example of content recommendation blocks because it blends in with other content published by the weather channel.

However, when you click the link to the article “One Woman’s Journey With Chronic Cough,” you’re taken to an article on the publisher's site that’s sponsored by Merck.

Measurement and optimization of native advertising ROI

For native advertising to be effective, you have to measure your results and optimize them for improved performance. Here are a few things to keep in mind when developing your native ads and measuring their performance.

There are several metrics you can track to help you determine whether your native ads are effective.

First, of course, before you started developing or publishing your ads, you should have created a strategy that outlined your goals. A few metrics to track throughout your campaign include the following:

Impressions and reach

Native ads are ideal for brand awareness campaigns because they can help you reach new and wider audiences by leveraging a publisher’s audience.

Native advertising is designed to look like something the publisher would create, which can help introduce new customers to your business and improve demand generation efforts.

Click-through rates (CTR)

While brand awareness is crucial, it’s not enough for customers to just see your ads. Since native ads often don’t have your company’s logo and don’t directly promote your products and services, you must ensure that people are actually clicking on them to learn about your business.

For instance, if you’re using content recommendation block native ads, you want visitors to click on them to access your content.

A low CTR signals that your ad isn’t effective at grabbing a user’s attention, so you may have to make changes to ensure it’s getting clicks.

Other types of native ads are less conspicuous, but the whole point of them is that users click on them to learn more about your brand and its offerings. If you aren’t getting clicks, you should revisit your advertisement.

Conversion rates

The ultimate goal of your native advertising strategy is to increase conversions on your website. Individuals click your native ad, read your content, and decide to take action. While your native ad may or may not have callouts directly to your business, they may have a call-to-action telling individuals exactly what you want them to do.

You can measure conversions, such as form submissions, sales, and clicks on your website, to determine the effectiveness of your marketing funnel for this particular campaign.

Optimization strategies

Unfortunately, like all types of advertising, native advertising may require some trial and error. If this is your first time using native ads, you should always consider optimization strategies to give you the best opportunities.

For instance, you can use A/B testing to measure the performance of different ad variations. With A/B tests, you can determine which copy and visual elements are most effective for achieving your goals. Other optimization strategies include:

Refining the target audience

You already know your target audience, but the more precise you can target them, the better your results will be. When you target your audience, your reach won’t be as wide.

However, targeting enables you to reach customers most likely to purchase your products and services and avoid spending money serving ads to those unlikely to purchase them.

Analyzing performance metrics

What separates digital marketing from traditional marketing is that you can make real-time changes based on data. By analyzing your campaign performance metrics, you can determine whether a native ad is performing well and make changes to help it perform better.

Always look to improve your native advertising strategy

Your native advertising strategy should include goals and serve as your action plan for developing effective content. Many of the native ads you see online today blend in seamlessly with publishers’ websites, making it difficult to distinguish between an ad and regular content.

The examples we’ve given you are just a few of the best native ads from some of the top brands in their niches. First, however, you should determine which strategy is right for you and continue testing your content to increase clicks and conversions.

Start designing your native ads in Mailchimp and create A/B tests for social media ads to improve their performance and help you reach your marketing goals.

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